Cameroon has enjoyed a climate relatively free of external conflict since independence in 1960 and this has enabled the development of the infrastructure of the country. However, in a nation with high potential for economic growth, almost a quarter of its 23 million people live below the poverty line. Around 53% of the population is engaged in agriculture and life expectancy remains low at 55.
Cameroon is a bilingual country. French and English are both official languages and Cameroon has a dual language education system. Around 20% of the population, primarily in the Northwest and Southwest provinces, is officially Anglophone although there are also around 200 local languages and many people speak neither English nor French fluently.
The literacy rate and the percentage of children enrolled in school are high for sub-Saharan Africa and education is highly valued. However, over 40% of children are engaged in child labour, restricting their time and energy to study.
In 2000 Cameroon announced universal primary education, but the associated costs make this unaffordable for many families as they are required to buy their children’s textbooks and uniforms.
There is no public library network in Cameroon and minimal central funding for libraries, although there is support for libraries at the district level.
Why we work in Cameroon
Cameroon has an active local publishing industry but is focused mainly on curriculum publishing and does not yet meet the need for reading and supplementary books, particularly in English. Although French is a more widely spoken language than English, there is increased motivation for Francophone Cameroonians to learn English due to its international importance as the main language of communication between countries.
With very little central support for libraries in Cameroon there is a real need for books and reading materials. Many local councils have set up libraries which offer a much-needed space for reading to local communities, and which we have been able to support through book provision.
Our work in Cameroon
In Cameroon we work with local NGO Education Information Services International (EISERVI) which supports libraries across a range of sectors. We largely work in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest provinces of Cameroon, although we do support schools and libraries in the Francophone Littoral Region and Central Region.
Supporting council libraries in Cameroon
We supply books to EISERVI’s network of 39 Council Libraries, which operate in a similar way to public libraries in other countries. These libraries offer a broad range of reading materials for readers of all ages.
In addition to providing books for general collections in public libraries in Cameroon our Children’s Corners programme is creating vibrant and welcoming spaces for children in African public libraries, providing brand new books from the UK and purchased locally, grants for library refurbishment and training for librarians in children’s services.
Supporting schools in Cameroon
Through EISERVI we support 43 nursery, primary and secondary schools in Cameroon by providing brand new, carefully selected books for use both in and outside of the classroom. In 2015 we sent over 17,500 books for use in schools in Cameroon.
Supporting higher education in Cameroon
Cameroon has a growing higher education sector but many of these institutions have insufficient budget to buy the specialist books their students need. We support seven higher education institutions and their students by supplying brand new carefully selected academic books. In 2015 we sent over 3,000 such books to institutions in Cameroon.
*UN Human Development Index 2015